Sunday, April 29, 2007

Some Launch Photos

Jennifer LoveGrove has now posted some photos from the launch on her blog. To see them, click here.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Launch Links

For now, let me just say that the launch was great fun. I’m going to hold off on posting my full report of the evening’s festivities until I have a few photos with which to illustrate it. I did remember to take my camera but then I was far too distracted to use it. Happily, our lovely host Jennifer and her beau Bryan took a copious number of pictures and they’ve promised to share.

In the meantime, you can find Stuart’s account of the evening here, and also a report from Patricia Storms—writer, illustrator, and blogger extraordinaire—here. It was the second time that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Patricia in person and it was a treat to have one of my very favourite bloggers there for the occasion.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Book Launch Tonight!

Just a quick reminder that my book launch is tonight!


Kate Sutherland, All In Together Girls (Thistledown Press)
Stuart Ross, I Cut My Finger (Anvil Press)

with musical guest Eric Bridenbaker

hosted by Jennifer LoveGrove

Sunday, April 22nd, 8 p.m.
Clinton's Tavern (back room),
693 Bloor West, Toronto

If you're close enough by to attend, please come and celebrate the occasion with us!

If you're not, I promise a full report afterwards, complete with photos. Speaking of which, I'd better get the batteries for my digital camera into the charger...

Friday, April 20, 2007

Interview By Word Association

There's a very entertaining interview with poet Stuart Ross in this week's issue of eye conducted entirely as an exercise in word association. Here's an excerpt:

The elephant in the room is blocking the door. Like elephants, I like peanuts an awful lot, but unlike elephants, I have a terrible memory. Which is a very challenging affliction for a writer. To compound the problem, I rarely carry a notebook around with me. Actually, I usually do have one, but when I see something interesting that perhaps I should put in a poem, I forget to take out my notebook and write it down. I’m working on that.

To read the rest, click here. The issue also contains an enthusiastic review of Stuart's new book, I Cut My Finger. A nice welcome to the world for a fine book.

And so long as we're talking about Stuart's book, don't forget that he and I are launching our new books together this Sunday, April 22nd, at 8:00 pm at Clinton's Tavern (693 Bloor West, Toronto). For full details on the event, click here.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Michael Ondaatje Interview Excerpts

Today’s Globe and Mail features a lengthy interview with Michael Ondaatje conducted by Johanna Schneller. In it, Ondaatje discusses his soon-to-be released novel Divisadero, and his writing process more generally. Here are a few excerpts.

On the time he spends on each novel:

It's been seven years since Anil's Ghost was published. You seem to like to live in your books for years.

As long as I can. For me, it's a slow discovery of the characters, four or five years of writing and rewriting. All the southern California material, that took me about two years, then gradually this other stuff [set in France] started coming up alongside it that seemed to be waving. I thought, “Is that another book or is this the same book? Well, let's bring it into the story and see what happens.”

On leaving his characters a future:

Do you imagine what happens in their futures, beyond the book?

I do leave it open. Those books that end with, “They married!” I don't like at all. I want to leave space for the reader to have a continuing relationship with the characters.

On writing as collage:

I'm always waiting for a character who's going to come in and confuse the plot a bit more or make it more interesting, take it another way, try to kidnap it. I think it's a bit like doing collages. Billy the Kid had a kind of collage structure. I've been thinking about collage a lot. I love it. There's something about it that's not just to do with having a different colour, a yellow bus ticket next to a packet of Gauloises or something like that. It's also the texture of the paper, the juxtaposition of things. It's having to make all those things one unit. So if something comes and doesn't fit in, another thing drops out.

Click here to read the rest of the interview. It should be accessible online for a couple of days before disappearing behind a subscription wall.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Michel Faber on Music and Writing

Michel Faber on music and writing:

When I was writing my Victorian opus, The Crimson Petal And The White, I didn't play 19th-century music to "get me in the mood". I played Miles Davis (his electric funk period), Mahavishnu Orchestra, Transglobal Underground, Severed Heads, Nurse With Wound. I did this not merely because I love this stuff. I did it because I'm wary of filling the air around me with the same ingredients as I'm trying to put into my prose. I don't want to fool myself into thinking I've captured something on the page when, in reality, it's swirling around the room. My most violent, angst-infused prose was written to a soundtrack of happy, serene music. And vice versa.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Rupert Thomson on His Writing Process

There’s an intriguing article in today’s Scotsman about Rupert Thomson. Here are a couple of snippets from it that I found particularly interesting. In the first, he shares part of the process of writing his latest novel, Death of a Murderer:

"I thought my policeman would probably go there," says Thomson. "So I drove there one day between Christmas and New Year, just as Billy does. At some point on the journey I stopped being me and became Billy Tyler and for the next four hours I was feeling everything he would have felt. I found myself looking over my shoulder all the time to see my car because I had this strong sense of panic that I wouldn't find my way back to it. Writing is often like acting without an audience and you have to become the person you're writing about, otherwise it's not going to ring true. It was a very spooky afternoon."

And in the second, he speaks of his writing more generally:

"I often have a Diane Arbus quote in my head while I write. She said: 'My favourite thing is to go where I haven't been'. That's what I want from every book."

To read the whole of the article, click here.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Book Launch Details


The Toronto launch for my new book of short stories, All In Together Girls, will be held on April 22nd at 8:00 pm at Clinton’s Tavern (693 Bloor West).

I’ll be sharing the stage with Stuart Ross who will be launching his latest book of poems, I Cut My Finger.

Host Jennifer LoveGrove will preside over the evening’s festivities which will include readings by Stuart and I as well as an acoustic performance by guest musician Eric Bridenbaker.

Come and celebrate with us!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Reading Paul Fussell

I seem to have traded in one Paul for another. My Paul Auster immersion has given way to a Paul Fussell binge.

I read Fussell’s brilliant The Great War and Modern Memory a number of years ago on my dad’s recommendation and was thoroughly taken with it. So when I embarked on a bit of WWII research in connection with the novel I’m finally working on in earnest, it was a natural to pick up Fussell’s Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War.

Most recently though, it’s Fussell’s essays that have captivated me. I picked up Thank God for the Atom Bomb and Other Essays and The Boy Scout Handbook and Other Observations at the same time and I have been ricocheting between them in random fashion for a couple of weeks with enormous enjoyment. Each of Fussell’s essays is full of marvellously acerbic observations that invariably lead to deep insights. Particular favourites for me so far include "Literary Biography and Its Pitfalls"; "Travel, Tourism, and 'International Understanding'"; "'A Power of Facing Unpleasant Facts'"; and, "Being Reviewed: The A.B.M. and Its Theory" (the A.B.M., in case you’re wondering, stands for “the Author’s Big Mistake, that is, the letter from an aggrieved author complaining about a review”). I wanted to quote a few pithy passages for you, but the essays are so beautifully put together, each sentence organically stemming from or leading to the next, that it’s difficult to convey the overall effect via isolated passages. Better that you should read the whole of one for yourself.

While I was browsing among the Fussell books on offer at the library, I also nabbed a copy of his Abroad: British Literary Traveling Between the Wars. I haven’t begun that one yet, but it sounds like it’s right up my alley and I’m eagerly anticipating it. And in one of those lovely moments of blog synchronicity, I learned that Bloglily, prompted by an intriguing carpool encounter, sought out a copy of Abroad the very same week that I did. So there is the possibility of reading Bloglily’s thoughts on the book at some future point to look forward to as well as the book itself.

Something which has occurred to me as I move between Fussell’s books is that while it’s quite common for me to read a number of works of fiction by a single author in quick succession, it’s very rare for me to similarly immerse myself in the non-fiction of a single author. There are some biographers and travel writers whose books I’ll read regardless of subject, and certainly in my days as a graduate student I experienced the odd all-encompassing infatuation with the writing of a particular theorist. But on the whole, I select non-fiction based on subject rather than author. It seems to me now that in doing so I have been missing out on the pleasure of following the development of the thinking and writing of individual non-fiction writers. Perhaps I’ll have more to say on that point as my Fussell odyssey continues.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Cloud That Seemed to Hang Over All of Us

Bryher on her childhood reading:

I am inclined to think now that much of the best writing of late Victorian times went into children’s literature. It is a myth to suppose that the nineteenth-century child felt particularly secure, the stories were mostly in the Zola tradition and stressed suffering, poverty and the evils of drink. I had one extraordinary volume largely taken up with an account of a small boy’s struggles not to compete with his drunken father in emptying tankards of porter. A Bible teacher saved him, of course. There were also grim accounts of disaster through a father’s death leaving the family without funds when dogs and possessions had to be sold and the children scattered as “poor relations” among harsh and unforgiving aunts. Such a fate was usually ascribed to the indulgence of the parents. They had given the family a pony or a trip to the seaside instead of saving every penny against a possible “rainy day.” The cloud that seemed to hang over all of us in a far more sinister way than any horror of giants or dragons has been brilliantly described by Dorothy Richardson in the opening pages of Pointed Roofs. Her account of the disruption of a family through the father’s failure in business differs only by the maturity of its writing from one of the major themes of our childhood fiction. It was essentially religious in character; what we had to-day might be gone to-morrow. I was ever afraid of animals or the dark but I always began to tremble when I heard that trade was bad.


Whenever I hear now of conferences to determine the vocabulary to be used in books for children and of the care taken not to upset their delicate imaginations, I can understand why they prefer their horror comics to literature. Our age treated us properly. The world was a harsh place and the sooner we learned the difference between good and evil the better. Ludicrous as some of the stories were, they spoke of realities and this was healthy.

(From Bryher, The Heart to Artemis: A Writer’s Memoirs, 1963.)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Drastic Measures

I’m a born procrastinator. I was tagged with the nickname “Kate the Late” as early as first grade. I lived only a block from my elementary school, no more than a five minute walk away. My mom sent me off in plenty of time each morning, yet with some frequency I failed to arrive at school until after the final bell had rung.

I’ve had a big project hanging over me for a very long time on which I have made little progress. I do what’s required to keep it alive but not enough to move very far forward or, distant dream, to move on. It’s a bit like making the minimum payment on a large credit card balance–it keeps the bill collectors at bay but, with the accumulation of interest, the debt never diminishes.

I’m sufficiently stressed about it now that I’m grinding my teeth into stumps as I sleep. It’s time for drastic measures. To that end, I pledge to deprive myself of fiction until I’ve wrestled the aforementioned project into submission. Surely this will stir me to action. Indeed, with the deferred pleasure of fiction to motivate me, I suspect it will be only a matter of days... I’ll let you know how I fare.

In any event, perhaps a momentary break from fiction reading will also give me the opportunity to catch up on the blog posts I’ve been intending to write about recent reads: Deborah Crombie’s latest novel, Water Like a Stone, which fully lives up to the standard set by the previous installments in her excellent Gemma James/Duncan Kincaid series; all three of the installments in Arnaldur Indridason’s Reykjavik mysteries that have so far been translated into English, read in rapid succession; The Higher Power of Lucky, the controversial recipient of this year’s Newbery Medal; Gregoire Bouillier’s The Mystery Guest, the most mysterious aspect of which for me is why it has garnered such lavish praise in so many quarters; my first foray into audiobooks, Zadie Smith’s On Beauty read by Peter Francis James; and, finally, my long overdue contributions to the A Curious Singularity discussions of Delmore Schwartz’s “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities” and Jean Stafford’s “In Zoo.” And here I am, full circle, back to lateness and procrastination.

Jeanette Winterson on Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood

Jeanette Winterson on Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood:

Nightwood is itself. It is its own created world, exotic and strange, and reading it is like drinking wine with a pearl dissolving in the glass. You have taken in more than you know, and it will go on doing its work. From now on, a part of you is pearl-lined.

What a marvellous thing to be able to say of any book, that in reading it “you have taken in more than you know, and it will go on doing its work.”

To read the rest of Winterson’s eloquent tribute to this classic novel, click here.